Bhawan Delhi is the millennial hotspot hosting street foods from all over India. I spoke with the couple behind it, Kainaz Contractor and Rahul Dua, on what makes it a street food aficionado’s sanctuary.
Their soft launch last week already has the city waiting to press ‘order’ as soon as they fully open, later this month. Bhawan Delhi is your one-stop-shop for chaat, snacks, and mithai from all over India. Chicken 65, Kombdi Vade, Vada Pao, Vattana Pattice, Kheema Samosa, Chole Bhature, Bedmi Pui, laddoos, pedas, barfis…you name it, and you’ll get it here. And with more than half a year of the pandemic, the timing couldn’t be better for everyone sorely missing their favourite street food.
A brainchild of Kainaz Contractor and Rahul Dua, both 32, it was planned as a brick & mortar space. However, the lockdown was implemented two weeks before the opening, hence they’ve had to restructure to a cloud kitchen for now. The couple is known for the Parsi restaurant Rustom’s, and between them have consulted for the likes of Café Dori and Café Lota. If you’ve dined at any of these spaces, you’d know that slow and steady is their motto, i.e., they’d rather take time and execute an idea impeccably than hurry into putting out a product. The result is almost always faultless, and so is the intention behind Bhawan Delhi. “It’s been in the making for the past 2-3 years. It started off because we truly love street food. And between the two of us our childhoods have been in Calcutta, Delhi, Bombay, Pune, Vishakhapatnam, Goa…it’s really interesting to see the slight differences in the street food cultures of all these cities,” shares Dua.
While it may have started off at a personal level, with observations such as Dua being crazy about Kolkata puchkas and Contractor only liking the Bombay panipuri, there was meticulous research involved. “Bhawan is the culmination of years of furious note-taking, research trips, tastings, and trials, finally we’re proud to say we’ve done our bit to represent the diverse street food culture of India,” says Contractor. For the last 18 months they’ve been taking frequent trips to Banaras, Lucknow, Kanpur, Bangalore, Surat, Allahabad, amongst others, eating chaat and mithai for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to ensure that the Bhawan menu is an accurate representation of the streets of India. “It’s also about making sure that Delhi gets to try chaats from different parts of the country. Maybe it reminds them of the streets they grew up on, or maybe they’ve not been to that part of the country yet so we give them that taste,” adds Dua.
This has created a truly one-of-a-kind menu. There are classics like Banarasi Tamatar Chaat, Marathi Sev Puri, Bhel Puri, Dahi Batata Puri, Indori Bhutte Ki Khees, Bengali Jhal Muri, Gulab Jamun, Jalebi, Rabri, Puran Poli, and many more. But, they’ve also crafted new-age versions of the chaat, snacks, and mithai we’ve known for decades. And as street food is typically vegetarian, they made sure to add plenty of non-vegetarian options. The Chorizo Pao Bread Pakoda emanated from Contractor’s love for potatoes in her chorizo; there’s the Mutton Dahi Bada—a contrast of hot & cold in each bite, and Kuliye Ki Chaat is one they’re particularly proud of (cue to bookmark it as a must-try). With mithai they’ve got variations like Coconut Barfi infused with passion fruit, Nutella Peda, Shrikhand Choux Bun, Mango Motichoor Ladoo.
They’ve incorporated almost all parts of India as they could, recreating the secret masalas and magic of the street vendors from everywhere. However, they still have a long wish-list to add to Bhawan Delhi, like fare from the Northeast. Yet, there’s already an extensive menu to work your way through until that comes about, and at the moment the two are “Excited to see the response Bhawan has got. For now we’re loving cooking the food and people enjoying it!”
You can place orders through their Instagram handle.
All images: Courtesy Bhawan